My Turn by June Clancy: Grandmother could teach us a thing or two

  • Posted: Monday, October 28, 2013 12:17 a.m.

What has happened to our public education system? I recently saw a news clip of an interview with a teacher who spoke about teaching students to read. During the interview, she said that they work with the students from “the level where they are at”! She is a teacher who does not use the language correctly! What kind of a role model is that?

After all that I have heard, I want to tell about my grandmother.

She was born in 1893 and at the age of 15 had to drop out of school due to a serious illness. However, she did not quit her education. She read and educated herself and passed the required tests to graduate from high school. She did not stop there. She continued studying and later passed tests that qualified her to teach. I have the test questions; for obvious reasons I do not have her answers. Here are some of the questions from those tests:

In June 1912, when she was 18, she passed the test for high school graduation.

High School Examination test questions:

n Compare the Athenians with the Spartans in regard to (a) government, (b) traits of national character.

n Describe two struggles between classes that occurred within the Roman republic.

n Describe two attempts at world empire from the earliest times up to 800 A.D., including the names of men and nations involved and the success of each attempt.

n Compare the empire of Constantine with that of Charlemagne as regards (a) extent of territory (b) races included (c) government. Name the capital of each empire.

In August 1913, when she was 20, she passed the test for her teachers certificate.

n Ancient History: State the principal events in the development of the Roman constitution from 509 B.C. to 261 B.C.

n Trace the connection between (a) Philippi and Actium, (b) Chaeronea and Arbela, (c) Metaurus and Zama, (d) Cynoscephalae and Magnesia.

n Name four Greek philosophers and give an account of the work of two of them.

In 1915, when she was 22, she passed the test for another teaching certificate.

n Elementary Algebra: If the greater of two numbers is divided by the less, the quotient is 2 and the remainder is 1. If the less is increased by 20 and this result is divided by the greater increased by 3, the quotient is 2. Find the numbers.

n American History with Civics: How have the provisions of the Constitution regarding the election of the president been modified in practice by the development of the party system?

n What was the “Irrepressible Conflict”? Give an account of three efforts made to avoid it.

n Great Britain and Ireland: Mention three ways in which the reign of the Plantagenets contributed to the progress of England and briefly discuss one of these ways.

She taught in a one-room schoolhouse with three or four grade levels in the room at one time. She never went to college and did not have computers or calculators to use but mostly taught herself, and she knew how to teach.

For those of us whose native language is English, where is our pride in our language? Why are students taught to punch buttons to solve math problems instead of how to use their minds?

I cannot imagine what my grandmother would say if she saw how cashiers in today’s stores do not know how to properly count out change or that students are not being taught cursive writing or how they get so much of their information online instead of at the library. What would she say if she had heard the teacher using improper English sentence structure? I imagine that she would be saddened and would ask whether any student, or anyone, of today can answer the questions that she did for high school graduation and beyond. I know that I cannot. Can you?

June Clancy lives in Salisbury.

“My Turn” submissions should be between 500 and 700 words. Send to with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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